Jeptha Creed and Ky. Peerless to release whiskeys this weekend

In the hunt for special bottles or just the newest bottle of special amber for your collection? Then carve some time out of your busy Saturday schedule—the lawn can wait until Sunday—to visit either Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. or Jeptha Creed Distillery (or both, which you could easily) for releases of their oldest whiskeys to date.

This will be Peerless’s first whiskey release, Peerless Straight rye, to be specific, and I can tell you from personal experience, it is superb, a rye I predict will wow fans of that style, including bourbon fans.

The distillery will be selling bottles from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Kentucky retailers will shelve their bottles that day, too. So if you can’t make it downtown, but want a bottle, call around to see who has it. My guess is the larger stores will. This two-year rye will cost $125 per bottle at the distillery, but possibly a little less at retail shops.Jeptha-Creed-Butcher's-Cree

Want to taste it first? Go to Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen and be one of the first 100 guests there to get a free pour and a commemorative tasting glass, beginning at 6 p.m. Reading this from Lexington? Belle’s Cocktail House is hosting a meet-greet-and-sip event for the release. For the $10 ticket you get a pour of the whiskey in a commemorative rocks glass, a cocktail made from Peerless Rye and the chance to meet Peerless owner, Corky Taylor. (The guy has a million great stories, so go meet him.)

Jeptha Creed in Shelbyville is having its third highly limited release of its Bloody Butcher’s Creed Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Opened last fall, this knockout of a visitor-centric distillery (Peerless is equally beautiful and completely different) began a gradual 566-bottle release of bourbon made from the Bloody Butcher heirloom corn grown on the owners’ farm. This batch of whiskey was made nearly three years ago at Death’s Door Distillery in Wisconsin and rested in oak for 2.5 years. Bottled at 100 proof, it is a weighty, fruity, modestly oaky and delightful sipper. (Future releases planned include 4- and 6-year bottlings.)

This is a 10-bottle release done by a drawing. To enter the drawing, you must go to the distillery some time between 12-1:45 to enter your name. During that wait, you’ve got time to take a tour, have a cocktail from its massive bar and even get a sandwich from its café.

“When we did our first (40 bottle) release in December, we had between 150 and 200 people show up,” said Autumn Nethery, co-owner and director of marketing at Jeptha Creed. “We did another 10-bottle release and about 40 people showed up, but that was Mother’s Day, so that might have dropped (attendance) down.”

Should you be lucky enough to have your name drawn, you must be present to buy the bottle, which costs $74.99 at the distillery. There are Bloody Butcher bottles out in the retail market as well.

Now on Tuesdays, EDT Talks with Isaac Fox at La Chasse and Wayne Sweeney at Merle’s

The show moves to Tuesday and Rick and Steve are raving about their experience at 8UP. The hotspot atop the Hilton Garden Inn downtown is featuring a special Chef, Feed Me dinner — offering three special items chosen by chef Jacob Coronado for $33. The restaurant treated us to a brilliant rabbit roulade (with sweet pepper sausage), a tasty shrimp and grits selection, plus a sweet yolk dessert to top off the meal. We call it a bargain, delicious and filling.


Isaac Fox, owner, La Chasse. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Steve’s interview with Isaac Fox, the operator at La Chasse in the Highlands, includes details on how he overcame an MSD issue that closed his popular restaurant briefly. Rick talked with Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen G.M. Wayne Sweeney and found out about some exciting future expansion plans for the newly renamed Main Street eatery. The move from modern Mexican to Southern has gone down smoothly so far.

In the news, we discuss the closing of Bearno’s in the Highlands and the opening of The Manhattan Project in Clifton. We wonder about an announcement this week by former general manager Adam Seger that the story behind a famous cocktail was a made-up tale created for marketing purposes. There’s also a new line expansion for Falls City Beer, more evidence of the growing thirst for more craft beer here.


Wayne Sweeney, GM, Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen. | Photo by Rick Redding

In our Favorites segment, Steve chose the shrimp and grits from 8UP mentioned above, plus a taste of old Forester 115 proof from his personal collection. For Rick, there was the Oh Well, Oh Well concoction from the drinks menu at 8UP, and he sampled several tasty options at the Yelp! Art in Action event at the Palace Theater. We hope you enjoy the move to Tuesday by our podcast, and will tell your friends about it.

Merle’s Goes Southern, and Country, to Prepare for Growth

Image is everything, right? That’s why the popular Manny & Merle’s on Main Street is now Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen.

It’s not just that the high-end tequila selection has been pared back to make way for a more complete bourbon selection, or that the food emphasis is now all about fried chicken, mac-and-cheese and bacon, though it is about those things.

But the idea behind the image switch at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen is really about preparing for something bigger, to become the kind of place that embraces the city’s image as a bourbon capital and to grow in size and shape just as nearby construction projects are completed.

Wayne Sweeney

Wayne Sweeney

“Being on Whiskey Row, we felt we really needed to tip our hat to the history and the homage of Whiskey Row and focus on Kentucky heritage,” said general manager Wayne Sweeney. “The Manny and Merle thing was kind of a modern Mexican, and we’re trending toward a Southern environment with Kentucky heritage and we just really started driving it home.”

The name change that brought with it new menu items and a revamped look took place last last month, but Sweeney said the transformation of Merle’s into one of downtown’s biggest and busiest nightspots is in the future. Owner Tony Palombino’s group has acquired the building next door, a former barber shop, that opens up the possibility of doubling Merle’s interior space. Sweeney also showed me some space in the building’s rear that is being designed as an outdoor patio space similar to the popular NuLu nightspot Garage Bar.

“We will be able to double our seating capacity and have a legitimate full-time stage and private party room,” he said. “We get emails every day from groups who want to have private parties.”

Merle's has acquired the barber shop space next door for expansion

Merle’s has acquired the barber shop space next door for expansion

Sweeney said there’s no timeline for the expansion into the space next door, but he is in the process of getting bids and setting a budget. Without doubt a larger stage could help make Merle’s a focus for live music on Whiskey Row.

“At some point, around 8 or 9, it almost turns into a nightclub,” said Sweeney, who grew up in Louisville but spent 11 years traveling the country for Hard Rock Cafe’s corporate parent. “It gets a little louder, the booze starts flowing a little bit more. There’s a lot of foot traffic downtown.  Downtown has really transformed, especially Whiseky Row, with couples walking around on dates, driving in for a weekend getaway. They’re looking for something to do, and we’re trying to fulfill that need.”

The music — country, Americana, Bluegrass — certainly gives the place a downtown Nashville vibe, as does the new food and drink menu.

“We’ve built a name for ourselves, and 30 percent of our customers are locals,” said Sweeney. “We do have some tourists, but a really good built-in crowd. Most of our staff has been here for a year now.

“I don’t see a ceiling, I just see us going up.  For the last 2 years we’ve constantly gone up in sales. There’s an exciting buzz in the city. The city’s getting ready to explode in the next two years which can only mean good things for us.”

You can hear Wayne Sweeney talk about Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen on the next episode of the EatDrinkTalk podcast, airing Nov. 8.



Hanging at Merle’s, Pam Heilmann Masters Michter’s, Spudz is a Natural for John Good

The EatDrinkTalk team sampled some new menu items at the VIP opening of Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen this week. The downtown spot’s ownership made some strategic changes to the name (so long, Manny) and the new menu that should be a hit. One of our new favorites, La Chasse on Bardstown Road, closed temporarily because of a sewer issue, and its owner has some complaints about the way MSD reacted to the situation. We’re skeptical, but hopeful, about the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts’ newly announced restaurant. And we regret reporting that Slice in Old Louisville closed after a brief three-month run.

Steve’s guest is Pamela Heilmann, the energetic new master distiller at Michter’s. She’s the first woman to earn the title in Kentucky, and is well-prepared for the new job. Rick talks with John Good, who has found life after horse racing (he was Bob Baffert’s top assistant) as a potato chip entrepreneur. He just introduced three new flavors of Spudz chips and in addition to being on the shelves at Kroger, is making it into several area restaurants. He just signed an agreement to sell Spuds at Churchill Downs.

In our favorites segment, Rick raves about the candied bacon at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen and a Kentucky Mule, a mixture of bourbon, lime and ginger beer on the drinks menu there. For Steve, the highlight was the fried chicken sampled at Merle’s, plus the sweet cornbread. He couldn’t decide between two favorite drinks — the new Copper & Kings Flood Wall Apple Brandy, and a Manhattan he ordered during a trip to Miami.

There’s more cool stuff going on around town, including a Shelton Brothers Beer Festival at Copper & Kings Friday and Saturday. Download the podcast, and tell your friends, about the EatDrinkTalk podcast.


John Good in studio with Spudz


Pam Heilmann, center, leads the team at Michter’s

Manny & Merle to be expanded, renamed Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen

After three years in business, Tony Palombino’s Manny & Merle honky-tonk and Mexican street-food restaurant will be expanded and renamed Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen in late October.

According to a news release, the renovated restaurant will feature upgrades such as a larger outdoor patio space dubbed Merle’s Backyard, which will include an outdoor bar and seating, fire pit and adult games.

Inside the restaurant will get an expanded stage for live performances and more seating for private parties. Additionally, the restaurant’s well-regarded Southern fried chicken will become Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen. No word on what this signature dish will taste like or what else may be carried over from Manny & Merle’s current menu.

“With the amazing growth along the Whiskey Row corridor, downtown is fast becoming a top dining and entertainment destination,” founder and CEO Tony Palombino said in the release.

Palombino’s other concepts include Boombozz Pizza & Taphouse and Joella’s Hot Chicken.

The bar will  offer one-of-a-kind single barrel bourbons to go along with the 100 bourbons currently offered. Expect bottles from private barrel picks at distilleries such as Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, Old Forester and Jefferson’s Bourbon (Kentucky Artisan Distillery).

The restaurant will host an October 24 VIP party to commence a four-day grand opening celebration through October 27. Exclusive specials will be on offer, and giveaways and prizes will be awarded on those days.

For more information about the restaurant call 502-290-8888.